Laura Sandefer

We’ve witnessed in our Acton studios that reflection time is the magic key to deepen learning. It’s been one of my favorite things to remember to do at home, as well.

A holiday tradition that’s worked for us may work for you, too. During this busy time, it’s easy to overlook the importance of quietly thinking and listening to each other’s hopes and dreams. Here is my answer to that dilemma:

If you walk down our main hallway right now, you’ll see a big white board and a jar of Expo pens sitting on the floor beside it. I drew a line straight down the middle and on the left side wrote: “Looking Back – Memories of 2019.” On the right side I wrote: “Looking Forward – Hopes for 2020.” Everyone jots their memories and hopes on the board over these days leading up to New Year’s Eve. Seeing what the others write makes me think more about what I want to write. The board stays put, gets filled slowly, and stands as a reminder that time is passing so what do you want to do with your life?

You can do this without a white board. Painter’s tape down the wall and different colored sticky notes would work great, too.

We’ve done this exercise since our children were about three years old. Back then, I’d tape up photos of the year to trigger memories. Recording their hopes for the year required conversation. “What is one thing you really want to do? Is there something you want to learn?” They’d quickly think of a few things and we’d draw pictures on the board to represent their hopes. “Jump on one foot for one whole minute” is a great dream and fun to draw.

We can let time pass, just reacting to what comes our way. Or we can savor it, ponder it and look forward to what lies ahead, taking action and celebrating the moment at hand. You don’t need a master of philosophy or a grand mountain to climb. You just need to mark a busy space in your home and let the reflection arise.

Co-founder and Chief Encourager for Acton Academy


Laura Sandefer is an author and the co-founder of Acton Academy, a school whose learner-driven model is spreading across the globe with over 130 locations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, Malaysia and more, and in 2019 is celebrating 10 years of letting children take learning into their owns hands.

Acton Academy bases their model of learning on the Hero’s Journey: a story pattern common in ancient myths and modern day adventures in which a hero goes on an adventure, wins a victory and comes home transformed. Children at Acton Academy know why they are being challenged to learn — they are on their own Hero’s Journey to find their passion in life.

Acton Academy and Sandefer have been featured in the Austin American Statesman, Inc., Forbes, National Review, Huffington Post and more. Sandefer has a bachelor of arts and masters of education degrees from Vanderbilt University. She currently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, children and three dogs.